A lot of Japanese always assume that whites = Americans and Asians = Japanese, so when they see Asians speaking English, they become a tad confused. Asians are not supposed to be fluent in English! Or so the Japanese think.
They just don’t understand the concept of bananas.
Yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Some people think it’s a derogatory term but I think it’s the only term that can describe English-speaking Asians perfectly to anyone.
I remember there was once I was hanging out with a Canadian-Chinese friend (we’ve lost contact since last December, but anyway) and while walking down the streets we got a lot of stares because we were both Asian-looking and speaking English. There were even some stupid high school guys who followed us for a while just because they were amused by our English conversation, even though I was sure they couldn’t understand a single shit (don’t worry, they were just plain curious, and we did not get hurt). My friend got quite uncomfortable and even claimed that we were being “discriminated”.
There was also another time when I was hanging out with an Australian-born Korean friend – whose first language is English – and we were chatting loudly and animatedly in a, erh-herm, English pub. Which was, ironically, full of Japanese. Again, stares upon us. There was even a gay couple next to us who were so green with envy that they told each other that they wish they could speak English fluently, loud and clear. They spoke in Japanese of course, because they probably didn’t realise that just because we were speaking in English doesn’t mean we couldn’t understand Japanese, yeah?
And here’s the most annoying incident. I was walking around town with my Swede friend and speaking in English (duh), when suddenly this old man came up to me and spoke in Japanese to me, 「いいな、外人の友達ができて、英語もペラペラだね。」 (Why, I’m so envious of you. You have a foreigner friend, and you speak such good English.)
Like, duh, it’s my first language. I speak it better than I speak Japanese.
Honestly, all these would not have happened if I had been blonde and white. All these happened PRECISELY because I am NOT blonde and white.
This foreigner/gaijin=non-Asian/white or Asian=Japanese/no English mentality is driving me crazy. Sure, I’ve been told many times that I look like a Japanese and many people are impressed by my level of command of the Japanese language (though I think I’m still not quite getting there – I still find the idea of blogging in Japanese daunting!), and I thought it meant that I am being accepted by the Japanese people as one of them. I had thought my assimilation was successful, but it seems like it had backfired on me instead. I am neither being accepted as part of Japanese society nor being regarded as a foreigner.
I see an imminent need to educate these island-mongers about bananas and discrimination.
After all, there are many foreign-born Japanese who have since become bananas, so it shouldn’t be such a distant concept to them!
Anyway, what happened today had been the last straw. The school admin staff had been working on a new school pamphlet and they wanted to photograph some students for it. At first, they had chosen my Japanese female classmate, who has a beautiful smile so no complains there. Then after that they started mumbling to themselves about putting a gaijin on their pamphlet. Well, obviously they were referring to my Swede friend.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally cool if they had wanted to use her photo because they had thought she is beautiful or perfect for the school pamphlet. But they obviously wanted her rather because she is different so as to attract attention. Which is kind of stupid. Like how many Swede students do they get every year? She’s probably the first Swede to enter this school and using her as a bait to get students to sign up for the courses is just screwed up marketing. And if they really wanted to feature foreigners, well there are 3 of us in this class, why not put all of us on the pamphlet? Why only her? The reason is obvious.
I wanna scream and shout and let it all out, like will.i.am and Britney Spears in the video below.
I wanna shout out to the whole of Japan and tell them that, foreigners come in all shapes, sizes and colours! So please don’t assume and make yourself look ignorant and stupid. There’s a bunch of us here called bananas and we speak excellent, if not better, English than most white people okay! And we are also foreigners here in Japan okay! And don’t judge us by our skin colour, that’s discrimination!